Showing posts from November, 2014

Cats and Rockets

Disclaimer: I'm a dog person. I connect with dogs I always owned dogs. I'm not as familiar with felines but I do like them. I felt SF literature was        biased somewhat in their favor and hence my post. I try to look at things from another angle. However I also try to mine existing ideas for new slants and I am a big fan of Andre Norton so: Cats in Space... The Scouts have their dogs. Free Traders have their cats. The features that make cats less attractive to Scouts make them more attractive to traders. There is a difference between running a 200 ton commercial ship and a 100 ton explorer ship. Free traders do not have the time or need to perform the strenuous decontamination procedures a Scout ship does almost weekly. They also do not explore untamed worlds but stick to the known markets for the most parts. Having vermin onboard is more of a factor and liable to put off high passage buyers. Cats excel in killing vermin and can be taught to present kills to the crew for

Brothers in Fur

Humanity has yet to encounter true alien intelligences in the Icy Shores. Nevertheless the Scout Service at least frequently has multi-species crews. Some of the crew have whiskers and paws. Many of the other services have cats and dogs aboard their vessels. Cats take care of vermin on Merchant traders and liners. Some Navy ships have mascots with pedigree papers that get more respect than their captains (especially if the commanding officer is a commander or lower rank). A number of Marine and Army units have various Terran and off world creatures as mascots. Only the Scouts list their dogs and cats as crew however. Scout prefer dogs to cats for several reasons. A dog is less likely to jump on a control console and create an accident. Dogs are also far easier to train to book for their pressurized carriers when they hear a certain alarm siren. While cats are superior in keeping vessels clear of vermin this is less of a concern when Scout vessels regularly open an airlock to flush


A little discussed feature of other planets is holidays. I'm not talking about Chrismanukwanza or Conjoined President's Day or similar holidays brought from Earth. I'm talking about local celebrations to baffle and thrill your players. There's a lot of fiction written about festivals where everyone is entitled to do whatever they wish with no repercussions. Star Trek: TOS started that trope and it's gotten dumber with every iteration. If you think you could rape and murder without abandon and your victims and their relatives would just let it slide after some arbitrary alarm goes off you're an idiot. Just let one member of the 1% be grabbed by blue collar celebrants and believe me there will be consequences. I want to talk about happier times to be had by all (npcs and pcs, no really). The first problem with Earth style holidays is when to celebrate them. Other planets are unlikely to have a year and day the same length as Earth. Tidally locked worlds are ev

Stats vs. Skills

I presented one idea for using stats with equipment to modify rolls. After some pondering I realized that stats should be good for more and in fact in some situations may be far more important than skills. Some editions of Traveller use acrobatics or athletics as skills which short changes stats. Also I do not add new skills to Classic or any version of Traveller lightly. Adding more skills means you have to add more skill levels to get enough skills to function. This means players will have characters with levels concentrated in a narrow range of skill at times randomly and at times by design. Good stats are rare in a game where aging rolls take their toll. A person who musters out after one or two terms will have little in the way of skills but might have baby fresh high stats and go on to be the heavy lifter of their party. Classic Traveller had one rule for a roll heavily influenced by stats: Throwing Blades. Roll 18+ on 2d6 adding Dexterity + skill - target evasion. I'd i


Some people take issue with Traveller ships using liquid hydrogen for fuel. Why not water? Well why not? Water is not flammable and contains oxygen which is good for breathing among other things. It also is great for radiation shielding. It is way easier to waterproof something than hydrogen proof it. Those little bitty atoms can migrate through some solid materials. Hydrogen leaks are nearly untraceable and can lead to hydrogen explosions and survival throws. But water is f---ing heavy! Take a Scout Courier, its 100 tons which in Traveller terms means it displaces 100 tons of liquid hydrogen. Please don't stick your ship in liquid hydrogen. The fuel tanks can take the cold but many other pieces of equipment can't. That 100 tons of liquid hydrogen takes up 1350 cubic meters (and two hundred squares of deckplans!) What is the mass of a Scout ship? Let's say it masses about .25 tons, on a par with modern aircraft and space craft (the materials are probably way sturdier.)

T5 review Part 3: Milk Bottles?

If you get this joke you really are a grognard. Over 600 pages in T5 and no milk bottles listed in equipment? So I was skimming T5 as usual and came to the section on skills. In an innocuous little paragraph I was informed that fixing ground cars for example worked for all ground car regardless of tech level and other skills were similarly independent of tech level. It quantifies quality of workmanship, reliability, ease of use and several other factors for any piece of gear. So now you could buy that I really have a problem with that. Flying a biplane will not give you the skill set needed to fly a TL 7 jet. Maybe the author thought it was needless detail and complicated play but this game also went into a couple of pages on perceiving and identifying various scents. Come on. Also breaking down skills into cascade and regular skills worked fine. Now we have at least a three tier cascade system with skills, knowledges and what have you that at least at first is confusing to me. T

New Rule (Comes Disassembled: Some Dexterity Required)

My post on creating tasks was very well received. I feel like I slighted some of the more stat oriented players and referees. I never really went with stats adding to skills every roll. Classic Traveller doesn't make a big deal about stats modifying rolls after chargen, right? Wrong Classic Traveller does apply stats to a great many common tasks that also use skills. These tasks are entirely concerned with killing people (and get a lot of attention in some corners). I refer to gun and melee skills. Both of these have required and advantageous stats levels based on the weapon in use. It's a very elegant mechanism. It models differing levels of natural ability. It In the CT tradition it also gives characters some choices to make. Should you take skills in a big heavy weapon that can tear through a hatch or a lighter weapon that you could actually hit with. In fact a rare character with advantageous STR and DEX and a heavy crossbow is downright scary (especially with a dose o

Not Seeing the Trees

I return to my read through of T5 Monday ... Ish. I love me some Classic Traveller. The books as written have everything you need to get off to a rousing start. They have mini games within games. They have rules for world building. They have funky power rules. They have a task system ... Oh wait. Perhaps the biggest gripe about CT is the lack of a task system (if you disregard the crap about fuel use, computer size, and what tech level your favorite gadget appears). I went through the rules to resolve skills and found them a joyous hodgepodge of different rolls for different tasks with very little explanation on the justification for this target or that mod. But the basics of a skill system are there and we can't really fault GDW. Coming up with really comprehensive rules for tasks would have probably taken a fourth book and bigger box. In any case the game holds up better after forty years than most presidential administrations. Actually CT does have a task system hidd

T5 Review Part 2

Credit: evan MacDude corrected my earlier misstatement. T5 is not an upgrade of CT but of T4 (which makes sense I guess). I haven't read T4. It came out while I was semi-retired from gaming, but it's on the list! Thanks Evan. Beyond the oasis of Chargen there's the fabled land of Qrebs where dwell the gun and armor makers. But before you reach it you must pass through Land of the Clones, Chimerae,  and Synthetics. Then you must cross the Desert of the Senses. Geneering clones was a little tedious but it had good stuff. It could and should have been a book on its own and divides characteristics into genetic and lifestyle components in a simple way. So no your clone is not assured of being absolutely identical to you. It also introduces personality recording and imprinting though oddly this comes a tech level before cloning is possible. Makes you wonder what TL 12 planets do with that knowledge. The section on chimerae, creatures engineered from the genes of two compatibl

T5 The Elephant in the Room

I recently acquired Traveller 5 and am determined to read through it as quickly as work allows (and maybe a little quicker). I never review, the internet is quite full of reviews but Traveller is near to my heart. So here goes. I've heard T5 described as 'a toolkit in need of a little love.' I have to agree with that description. I'm about a quarter of the way through now (in Book 1 territory in CT terms). T5 started out with a description of common measurements, range, money, volume and such. This goes on for enough time to dash any hope of a quick start. Regardless of the clarity or need of this information it's in the wrong place. We don't get to rolling stats till the early fifties. We also get a little information on how fatigue modifies rolls for tasks before we really learn how to roll for tasks as well as many many charts assessing the chance of successful rolls based on many dice pools. Again the information is interesting but it should be with the ta

Skill List(lessness)

As with most classless games Traveller characters are very strongly identified with their skills. In fact it's often stronger than most games. You have t make hard decisions about what service to enter to get the sort of skills you want. You may ache to be a hot shot pilot but with a low social standing the Navy is out. A low endurance will preclude the Scouts (if you want to live). So farm boy winds up flying a free trader instead of a Rampart starfighter. Add to this you are constantly balancing your quest for skills against aging and survival. In many versions of Traveller increasing skills is a very long, expensive and uncertain process. Naturally no one in Traveller ever thinks they have enough skills or levels in skills. People didn't think it when they generated their characters in Classic Traveller. Little has changed that mindset. When we got a look at Mercenary, wow! Suddenly you could go for advanced character generation with the possibility of a skill gained for

Answering the Question No One Asks

I'm big on Classic Traveller. You all know that. I have (just this day) acquired T5. Expect a longer blog post as I can't read the whole dang thing in one day. But I started and the following post is the result. I will critique T5 after I read the whole shebang. But it got me going all meta on game design. As the hour is late and I'm beat I will try to be succinct. A lot of a RPG or setting's success hangs on knowing what questions to ask and answering them. Classic Traveller asked and answered the required amount for an SF setting, in my opinion, in the core LBBs. That's a good design. Leaving out say, starships, for a splat book is a bad design. Leaving out vehicle combat is a gray area. You can't stick everything in your game though so it is defensible. Trying to answer every question you can think of is commendable, at least for enthusiasm. It isn't always the right decision. A game still has to be accessible. It has to be affordable. Too much chro

Airships and Barbarians

There was a brief pleasant time when I could throw a question out on the interwebzz and get answers and research delivered to me. that seems to have stopped because I've rattled on about things enough for people to realize I can do the heavy lifting research myself. Crap. Anyway, the Sperans, my space barbarians had a low tech equivalent to an air raft. Keep in mind when I say barbarians they still are TL 5 (early WW 2 in Earth terms). Since the prevalent interstellar culture in this setting is TL 9 I guess a barbarian is anyone 4 tech levels or more below you and TL 12 cultures will probably laugh their asses off at our 3D printers before they add water to their dehydrated air cars and fly off. When Earth and the Fringe Worlds reestablished contact with Peraspera the locals had lost the infrastructure and tools to manufacture gravitics. Nonetheless Scouts making contact were amazed to see flying ships. Besides blimps and dirigibles the colonists had a number of open-topped t